Kiese.Matthias Stylised Facts on Cluster policy.pdf


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Ruhr area, Bavaria stands for the opposite case of a late industrialised state with a
strong presence of high-tech industries. With its manufacturing sector shaped by
Volkswagen and its supplier network, Lower Saxony appears quite unlike these two
extremes but rather falls into the “grey mass” category of regions often neglected in
regional studies.
This paper aims at drawing lessons from the experiences made with regional cluster
policies in Germany. Section 2 introduces a public choice model of cluster policy and
the practice of cluster development that assigns different rationalities to these
spheres. Section 3 provides a brief overview of cluster policies in Germany within a
multilevel governance framework, from the supranational down to the regional and
local scale. The empirical findings are condensed into ten stylised facts in section 4.
They allow for policy recommendations and the formulation of issues for further
research, which are highlighted in the final section.
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Theorising Cluster Policy: A Public Choice Approach

Current theories of cluster emergence and evolution tend to assign only a minor role
to economic development policy and practice, if at all (cf. FELDMAN/BRAUNERHJELM
2006, KARLSSON 2008). They are therefore inappropriate to explain the recent boom
of cluster policies and initiatives around the world. Since such an explanation instead
calls for theories that embrace a consideration of the functional logic driving
politicians and bureaucrats as independent variables, public choice reasoning
appears to be an obvious choice here. Public choice economics uses the tools of
(neoclassical) economic theory to explain the behaviour of actors in politics and
practice; as a result, it is rooted in methodological individualism and assumptions
about rational behaviour (cf. MUELLER 2003 or MERCURO 2007 for an introduction and
overview). Its core assumption is that of self-interest: political actors strive to
maximise their individual utility functions rather than public welfare. Their political
rationality thus differs from an economic rationality that focuses on public wellbeing
(cf. VANBERG 1996).
Building on this perspective, the conception, decision and implementation of cluster
policies can be seen as driven by different rationalities in their respective action
spaces. For our deductive public choice model of cluster policy, we assume the
conceptual action space responsible for analysis and strategic recommendations to
pursue economic rationality by focusing on public welfare maximisation. By contrast,
the political and practical action spaces can be conceived as being driven by political
and bureaucratic rationalities respectively. Since a cluster concept has to pass
through the inevitable filters of politics and bureaucracy in its decision processes and
implementation, it is worth taking a closer look at the individual action spaces
involved here.
Assuming economic rationality in the conceptual action space implies an objective
and open-ended process of cluster identification to inform policy, drawing at least
implicitly on cluster theories and making proper use of the methods available for
identifying and assessing cluster potential (cf. BERGMAN/FESER 1999). This normative
assumption precludes opportunistic behaviour on the part of actors trying to pursue
their self-interest, such as by purposely exaggerating cluster potential to stimulate
wishful thinking and to generate further advisory mandates for themselves. However,
this assumption can be easily challenged, since policy advice does not only provide
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